Bee Thinking About—For August, 2013

About a year ago we started this feature to remind you of things to consider for your apiary this time of year.

You’d think (and we had hoped) that we could just run last August’s article again, but golly, there’s so much to learn and think about, so it wasn’t that easy. Plus, you wonderful readers let us know about other things to consider, so we’ve expanded this article on things to bee thinking about for the August apiary.

As always, what is appropriate for your apiary varies by your geographic area, your microclimate, and your management philosophy.

Things to consider in late summer:

Do you have a good brood pattern? Laying is slowing down, so every bee here on out will either be overwintering or nurturing the bees that overwinter. You need a good cluster size going into winter. If there isn’t a good pattern, check that there’s at least 20 pounds of honey in the hive. That’s what it takes for the queen to keep laying; that could be the cause of a weak brood pattern. Consider supplemental feeding, requeening, or combining the hive.

About combining hives: It’s about make or break time for hives in the north. In the next few months, any colonies with insufficient stores will need to be addressed. Know which hives are your good ones, which queens are performing, etc. for ease of decision making when the time comes.

About requeening: There’s plenty of debate on whether you should routinely do it, or let the bees decide. There are plenty of insights and opinions on that topic.

If you do requeen, consider not killing the old queen (put her in a nuc box perhaps) until your new queen proves successful—that they’ve accepted her; that’s she’s laying and laying well.

Did your teenage son leave his gym shoes in the hive? Hopefully not, but it might smell that way. If you’re blessed to live by goldenrod, this great fall forage is a honeybee favorite, although it does make the hive smell like a locker room to we humans. The honey still tastes great though, but it may be honey that you’re leaving on for their winter fuel anyway. Winter. Argh. So hard to have that word on the radar again.

Mites, small hive beetles, etc.: Stay on top of them. Reducing the hive volume to something bees can most appropriately defend is crucial this time of year as populations decrease and raiders increase.

Educate: This is the time of year when a variety of wasps, yellow jackets and other stinging insects move from annoying to aggressive. You’ll hear from your neighbors that one of your bees stung little Becky on the lip when she drank from her open pop can and that there’s a huge honeybee nest hanging under their eves. Chances are in either case those are not honeybees. When you find opportunities to help people understand the differences between stinging insects and the importance of them, consider using the teachable moment to help our honeybee friends.

Food and water: Drought, natural seasonal declines in forage, etc.—if it’s happening, supplement. You want the colony as strong as possible heading into fall and winter.

Take a photo of the apiary: A reader sent in this helpful hint, noting that come winter, when reviewing the year and planning for next, a picture is helpful in recalling what hives were where and maybe helping explain differences in productivity. Plus, we love your pictures (see final item).

Start thinking about fall: Gasp, but yes. When you take the supers off, do you have containers for that honey? How are you going to store the supers so they don’t get moth or mouse-infested? Do you need mouse guards for the hives? Remember, Kelley’s carries everything you need.

Celebrate the honey season by sending chocolate to the editor: Not really—she doesn’t need it. However, she does need your pictures and stories of success to share with readers, along with pictures and stories of what went terribly wrong to help us all better keep bees. Email them to me at, and thanks in advance.

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